Stress Part 3: Adaptogenic Herbs

According to David Winston, Dr. Nikolai Lazare, in 1947, first defined an adaptogen as an agent that allows the body to counter adverse physical, chemical and or biological stressors.  This is done by raising nonspecific resistance towards such stress thus allowing the organism to adapt to stressful circumstance. (Adaptogens).  In other words, adaptogens are natural substances that help the body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic functions and help restore balance.  They increase the body’s resistance to physical biological emotional and environment stressors and provide a defense response to acute or chronic stress.

This differs from classical stimulants (think caffeine and other amphetamine like substances), which initially increase the body’s work-capacity.  However, this capacity is substantially decreased as the effects wear off.  Repeated use of such CNS (central nervous system) stimulants deplete the brain of catecholamines and decrease the body’s conditioned reflexes. In contrast, adaptogens can help to increase the body’s work-capacity gradually over time.

There are some rules regarding adaptogens.

  1. They must be non-toxic to the body and they must cause minimal side effects (usually the constitution is not taken into consideration).
  2. They are non-specific to an organ but work through the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis.

Now, can you smoke, drink, stay up all night and then take adaptogens and expect them to turn your life around?  NO.  If you don’t eat right, if you don’t sleep right, and if you don’t have a good spiritual practice, then no matter how many adaptogens you take, you won’t be at your best.  However, taking them daily will help your body to deal with stress so you can adapt better.  Adaptogens are your ally!

Here is a list of the most common adaptogenic herbs.  When buying any herb, make sure the botanical name is on the label, otherwise you cannot be sure that you’re getting the right herb.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis)

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, gratissimum)

Korean ginseng a/k/a Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra, uralensis)

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)

Herbs can be taken as tinctures, teas, powders or tablets.  The form is up to the person and there is nothing that says you can’t take a number of them!

Here are some interesting “rid-bits” on various adaptogens:

  • Korean ginseng is considered the granddad of all adaptogens and was only taken by the elders in ancient China.
  • Astragalus is great for protecting the body, but should not be taken if you are overtly sick.
  • Ashwaganda has been taken traditionally as a tea with milk, turmeric and honey, and often in the evening to promote sleep.
  • Licorice, because it is so sweet, is added to many formulas as both an adaptogen and a “harmonizer”.
  • Shatavari is considered a “women’s tonic”.
  • Reishi has been shown to have anti-tumor properties.
  • Eleuthero was studied extensively by the Russians and given to their athletes to help them perform better.

If you want to know more about adaptogens, I would suggest reading:

Adaptogens by Donnie Yance

Adaptogens by David Winston

Herbs and Natural Supplements by Braun and Cohen

Blessings, Jayne

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Tyler Arboretum Classes in January, February and March

Hello All!

Jean Gupta and I will be teaching three classes at Tyler Arboretum this upcoming winter/spring!  www.TylerArboretum.org

January 9th 7-8.30 pm: Herbs for the cough and Cold Season.  Come learn what herbs you need to make your own tea for the cough and cold season.

February 13th 7-8.30pm: Herbal First Aid Remedies.  Come and learn what you need to stock in your medicine cabinet at home and in the car for any emergency.

March 13 7-8.30pm: Cleaning Safely with Essential oils.  Throw away your harmful cleaners and come learn to make your own using natural ingredients and essential oils.

Hope to see you there!  Single classes are $15 (member)/$20 non member; series of three classes is $40 (member)/$50 (non member).

 

 

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Stress Part 2: Taking Steps to Reduce Stress

We all have stress and a certain amount of it is actually quite healthy.  If we could NOT mount a stress response, our body would begin to stop functioning (think of Addison’s disease).  But let’s face it, most of us could do with less!  I like to use the analogy of having an internal pilot light.  That pilot light should be on a “1-2” and when we need to, we can turn it up to a “7”, “8” or even a “9”.  But if we are constantly running at a “7”, “8” or “9”, we are burning out all our fuel.  In this case, the fuel is our adrenal glands, which secrete both hormones and neurotransmitters, which, in turn, help us when we need to get away from the proverbial Sabre-Toothed tiger.

How Can I Lower My Stress Levels?

(1) Let It Go!!!

My opinion is that stress is often anger or frustration that we haven’t released.  How often are we driving and someone cuts us off and we can feel our blood pressure rise?  We can reframe it and say, ‘well maybe the guy is taking his wife to the ER’, but honestly, that only works for so long and it doesn’t get to the underlying root cause of our anger.  A better choice would be to just let yourself have a good scream in the car (other passengers plug your ears!).  Just let it go!!!  You might find when you do this that you want to have a good cry because it brought up something else within you.  So then, have a good cry!! (you might want to pullover in this case).

Letting go of anger and frustration will help your body release emotions and lower your ‘pilot light’.  I personally keep a baseball bat under my bed, and when I am feeling angry, I just go upstairs and hit the bed.  I feel so much better because I have let my emotions OUT rather than keeping them IN.  And equally as important, I’m not taking it out on my partner, children and/or colleagues which just makes them, well, angry.  The more you release your anger, the less stress you will start to feel in your body.  The same goes with FEAR.  If we allow ourselves to just feel the fear inside of us, we can help release it.  The “fearful” situation may still be there, but the EFFECT on our body will be lessened and this is the important point!

After you have let it go, you might want to take a moment to pray or reflect and ask for God’s help in dealing with whatever issue is really the underlying cause of your anger or fear.  I truly believe we need to be more “God reliant”.

(2) We all need to be more loving to ourselves.  Not pampering—loving.  So, if this means not taking the kids to all their activities because you need some time for yourself—take it.  Take time for yourself because no one will give it to you!  It also shows others, especially children, that self-love is as important as filial love.

(3) Eat as healthy as you can, limit or eliminate alcohol, get plenty of sleep and try to get some exercise daily—sound familiar???

(4) Take adaptogenic herbs.  Next blog :)

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Stress-Part 1: The ill effects of long-term stress

This is a three part series on psychological stress.  This blog will outline the consequences of stress and the following two will cover ways to deal with long-term stress.

We live in a time where physiological stress is our greatest enemy.   We are costing our country billions of dollars in medical bills because we either don’t recognize it or we feel that we cannot do anything about it (which consequently leads to more stress).  No longer is stress just a reaction of the “type A”, work-till-you drop executive.  In fact, the lower the socio-economical tier one is in, or the lower ones job position is, the HIGHER level of stress that person is bound to have simply because they have no control over the situation.  And this goes for children, too.  Many children have physiological problems (allergies, asthma, digestive issues) where undiagnosed stress is at the heart of the problem.  Think about it: children are told what to do all day long—at home and at school.  Their playtimes are cut dramatically and their homework levels have increased.  We are a nation of stressed-out people and we really need to rethink, as a culture, how to reframe the very way we work and learn in order to stay healthy and be a productive member of society.

I think if we all thought about stress for any length of time and the real damage the stress response can do to our bodies, we would work on ways to reduce it.  A small amount of stress is helpful and of course when we need our stress response to turn on “high’ in order to run away or fight, it had better be in peak shape.  This cannot happen if we are constantly under psychological stress (not to mention physical or chemical).  We need our “pilot lights” to run at a 1 or 2 and then go to an 8 or 9 when we need it.  Nearly all of us are running at an 8 or 9 on a daily basis.  Soon we will have little “fuel” left in our bodies and we will burnout.

Some of the long-term effects of chronic stress:

  • Reduces the function of brain cells in the hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory).  And if it goes on long enough, kill off these brain cells permanently.
  • Causes plague to build up in the arteries potentially resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
  • Contributes to weight gain—especially around the belly (which actually contains its own hormones that, in turn, can cause problems).
  • Causes our bodies to age faster (through shortening of the telomeres).
  • Shuts down our reproductive cycle
  • Magnifies any menopausal or andropausal symptoms
  • Reduces the immune system so that:
    • peptic ulcers can develop by allowing “bad” bacteria to flourish
    • wound healing capabilities are limited
    • colds, flus, allergies become a constant
    • leaky gut is more likely to occur leading to many immunological problems
    • one feels constantly fatigued
    • constipation and/or diarrhea (think IBS, IBD) can be a constant factor
  • Chronic stress is also associated with chronic diseases such as:
    • fibromyalgia
    • asthma
    • chronic fatigue syndrome
    • myriad of autoimmune diseases

So, if any of this sounds like you, ask yourself “what level is my “pilot” light running on? “  If it’s above 5, then you have to look at the stress in your life and take actions to reduce it.

Next blog:  recognizing stress and taking steps to reduce it.

Blessings, Jayne

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Spring is coming–time to think about a cleanse!

Even though the spring equinox is weeks away, I can feel the energy rising up in my body—and I can see it in my children even more.  Ah spring.  Our bodies are so ready to end the eating of heavy foods, and begin the journey to eating those foods above ground (and some root veggies, too!).  Spring is a perfect time to be thinking about a cleansing program using food and herbs as your allies in health.

Detoxifying our bodies is extremely important and it should be done regularly.  According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person has about 200 toxic chemicals in them!  And if you live in a polluted area like I do, you may have even more.  Tip:  to know the toxic load in your area, go to www.scorecard.org and type in your zip code.  Prepared to be alarmed!

But before embarking on a more serious detoxification program, first get your body ready by eating food fresh from the earth: dandelion and burdock roots, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, and of course, lots of soluble and insoluble fibrous vegetables like jicama and sunchokes.  As the greens pop up, they are cleansing to the body so eating as much of them as possible is incredibly beneficial.

Herbal Teas.  Of course, making herbal tea from dried (or fresh) herbs is another great way to help your body release toxins and give it support.  Here are just a handful of great herbs to consider if you want to make your own herbal tea. Try not to add honey or a sweetener to your herbs because your digestive system needs to experience the bitter flavor of the herbs in order to be most effective.  Also, liver herbs are considered “cold” to the body; so if you run ‘cold’, warm them up with ginger root or cinnamon.  Also, unless otherwise noted, it’s best to simmer root teas for about 15-20 minutes (covered).

Liver clearing and support herbs:

Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale).  Used in both western and eastern herbalism, this bitter root helps to stimulate the release of bile and is said to help cleanse and repair the liver.  There is one study that says it is helpful in breast cancer as well.

Sarsaparilla root (smilax regelii, ornate, officinalis). Once used to make root beer, sarsaparilla was used medicinally for all sorts of ailments including chronic skin conditions, urinary tract infections, rheumatoid arthritis, dropsy, and virility.  I love the smell of it, and it can be combined with many other root herbs in a decoction (which is to gently boil then simmer the herbs for 15 minutes covered).

Milk thistle seeds (Silybum marianum).  This is an herb that is considered protective to the liver or “hepatoprotective” as the physiomedicalists and eclectics would say. In fact, it has shown to accelerate the regeneration of liver cells after liver damage and has anti-inflammatory properties.  Many cultures grind up the seeds and add them to their daily meal much like we add salt and pepper.

Kidney clearing and support herbs:

Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale).  Known as a gentle diuretic, this potassium-containing herb has been used for centuries to cleanse the kidneys and to help children beset with bedwetting (enuresis). It was also used for chronic skin disease, dropsy and even uterine obstruction.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense).  Once used to scour dishes, this herb is known for its qualities of helping with many urinary tract and kidney issues including: cystitis, urethritis, enuresis, prostatitis and edema. It is best made as a cold decoction meaning that it should be put in water (covered) over night and then gently reheated the next day.  It can, however, be steeped if being used in a tea blend.

Goldenrod (Soladago (spp)).  Often used in upper respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, this gentle herb is considered to be an anti-inflammatory as well as a diuretic. I like adding it to my formulas to help support the kidney during a cleanse or detox.  It grows wild in abundance, is easy to spot, but is contraindicated in those with an allergy to golden rod.

Here is a sample of a “cleanse” tea

Using 3 cups of water add:

  • 1 teaspoon of dandelion root
  • 1 teaspoon of sarsaparilla root

Gently boil for 15 minutes then pour over

  • 1 teaspoon of dandelion leaf
  • 1 teaspoon of goldenrod
  • 1 teaspoon horsetail

Cover and let steep for another 10-15 minutes.  (Note: The quick way would be to pour boiling water over all the herbs and let steep for 15 minutes.)

Cleansing teas are not meant to be taken long term, so it’s best to limit them to 3 weeks and then take a break.  Happy cleansing, happy spring!

 

 

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Love Potion #9

With Valentines’ day right around the corner, I couldn’t help remembering when I made a love potion for myself.  In need of some good energy, I created this potion.  The day I took it was the day I met Eugene — and we’ve been together ever since. ….just saying….  :)

 “Love Potion #9”

Tincture or tea

  • 4 parts Hawthorn leaf or berry
  • 3 parts Rose petals or rose hips (Galen’s Way makes a great Rose glycerite)
  • 1 part Agrimony
  • 1 part Tilia

Hawthorn (Crataegus)  (Rosaceae family)

Hawthorn has been used for the emotional as well as physical heart for centuries.  The tree/shrub has thorns protecting its berries as we have “thorns” as a ways of protecting our heart.

Rose (Rosaceae family)

Rose petals or rose hips can be used in your tea or tincture—the petals if you’re younger, the rose hips if you’re more “mature” says the wise-women of old–and love will be yours.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) (Rosaceae family)

In the study of Flower Essences, agrimony is said to be good for those whose smile hides a broken heart.  It was also planted around the house to prevent meddling and interference and taken internally to help relieve tension.

Linden flower or Tilia (Tilia europaea) (Tilaceae family).  Often used in children’s formulas, it is said to help calm the shen or the spirit allowing us to be more open and relaxed.

Of course there are many great herbs such as rosemary, motherwort and holy basil, so have fun creating your own love potion!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Jayne

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Free Herbal On-line Books

First, I want to give a big “THANK YOU”  to Paul Berner who posted all these free on-line herbal books.  I have put them on my website, so just go to the “Resources” tab and scroll down!  If you’ve ever been interested in herbal medicine, these are great books to check out with no ‘overdue’ notices.

Happy Reading!!  Jayne

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January 1st–Not the time to start that New Year’s Diet!

Another year has gone by, and another resolution made to lose those extra pounds.  But did you know that our bodies are hard-wired not to lose weight in the winter?  This is because our ancestors would often starve to death in the winter due to a lack of food.  So, because winter was the time of scarcity, our bodies adapted to it by making it more difficult to lose weight.  So when many people try to lose those extra pounds in January they become very discouraged.  But don’t, because there is something you can do!

1. Cut out all foods with sugar or corn syrup in it.  Getting rid of sugar will really benefit your body and make weight loss that much easier come late spring/summer.

2. Double up on your vegetables.  They will fill you up without filling you up on calories.  Plus they are packed with nutrition.  Soups are especially nutritious with out being calorie dense.

3. Work-out.  Good cardio and weight bearing exercises will help you maintain muscle which makes losing weight easier when the time is right.

4. Drink plenty of fluids.  Winter is the season of water/ice and of the kidney.  So drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated.

Happy New Year to everyone!  Jayne

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Herbs for Coughs

Herbs for the cough season

We had a “meet-up” here yesterday and I wanted to share some ideas that we talked about.  No matter what the “problem” is, when we talk of herbs we often try to categorize them by their actions.  In terms of coughs, the actions are generally:

  • Stimulating/expectorant
  • Demulcent
  • Relaxant
  • Antimicrobial

Herbs often have more than one action and so it’s important to know the actions of each herb that you are using.  As important, you need to figure out what “type” of cough it is (wet/mucous or dry/hacking), as well as knowing something about the person who has the cough (are they naturally cold/dry, cold/damp, hot/dry, hot/damp).

Once you’ve decided what type of cough the person has, and the “constitution” of the person, you can put together your cough formula.  Most herbs for coughs today are given by tea or in a syrup although vinegar, wine and brandy are still used today.

Vitalist philosophy:

An allopathic cough treatment might include a cough “suppressant”.  Although this can be helpful in certain circumstances, it goes against the herbalist’s “vitalist” philosophy, which is to assist the body rather than to suppress it which means we want to get the cough’s energy up and out.  Suppressing a cough could actually make things worse.  E.g., postnasal drip leads to cough, which leads to bronchitis, which leads to pneumonia.

Teas/syrups:

  • Teas are either steeped or decocted (cold or hot).  Roots are generally done in a hot water decoction with the exception of marshmallow root which is a cold decoction.  Aerial parts are usually steeped.
  • Syrups are made from either honey or sugar and water.
  • “extracts” are made with wine or brandy
  • Vinegar was often used as a medium
  • Oxymels (vinegar+honey) have been used for thousands of years and the first one clearly written down was by Hippocrates who said it was be used for coughs with mucous and not given to people with a cold/dry constitution.
  • Garlic syrups were popular
  • Vinegar and cayenne was often used for sore throats
  • Onion poultices were popular for reducing mucus

Herbs for coughs

Demulcents: (soothing)

  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Plantain (Plantago major)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Grindelia (Grindelia robusta)

Relaxants:

  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) (always use caution with Lobelia)
  • Mullein
  • Wild cherry bark (Prunis serotina)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Black cohosh (Cimicifuga, Actaea racemosa)
  • Grindelia

Stimulants/expectorants: (often warming and drying)

  • Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)
  • Elecampane (Inula helenium)
  • White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
  • Lungwort (Sticta pulmonaria)
  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
  • Mullein (especially the flowers)
  • Thyme
  • Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)

Antimicrobial:

  • Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)
  • Thyme
  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Usnea (Usnea spp)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Osha root

Ginger and cinnamon are often added to teas or syrups when there is a lot of mucous.  Elderberry is also often for its antimicrobial effects and the concentrate tastes yummy.  Finally, many herbs can be found in homeopathic formulations, so check with Boiron or another homeopathic company if that is the mode that you prefer.

So, now that you know how to make your tea, no more coughing! :)

Blessings, Jayne

 

 

 

 

Herbs for coughs

 

Demulcents:

  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
  • Comfrey root (Symphytum officinale) (not really used today)
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Plantain (Plantago major)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Grindelia (Grindelia robusta)

 

Relaxants:

  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) (always use caution with Lobelia)
  • Mullein
  • Wild cherry bark (Prunis serotina)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Black cohosh (Cimicifuga, Actaea racemosa)
  • Grindelia

 

 

Stimulants/expectorants: (often warming and drying)

  • Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)
  • Elecampane (Inula helenium)
  • White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
  • Lungwort (Sticta pulmonaria)
  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
  • Mullein (especially the flowers)
  • Thyme
  • Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)

Antimicrobial

  • Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)
  • Thyme
  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Usnea (Usenea spp)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Osha root
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The Flu Season is here–what to do???

Of course washing your hands is very important, but we need to make our bodies strong rather than worrying about all the germs that are out there. Actually, germs are our friends—they help to make our bodies stronger, more able to fight the next infection out there. But no one wants to get sick, so here is a simple suggestion.

Go to the health food store and buy some Oscillococcinum. Open one vial and pour about 5-10 pellets (they are really small so pour carefully) in a glass jar with 4 ounces of water in it. Cap the jar and shake vigorously until pellets are dissolved. Now give one teaspoon of the water with the dissolved pellets to everyone in your family on a weekly basis.

Of course, try to avoid sugar, eat your vegetables and smile!

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